I'm Finding My Talk
I'm Finding My Talk
I’m finding my talk.
The one I never had.
The one that the schools.
Took away from my dad.
I’m finding my talk
And it may take some time,
But I’m learning to speak
In a language that’s mine.
These lines from the first and last pages of the picture book I’m Finding My Talk, by Rebecca Thomas, immediately highlight the resilience showcased in this important work. Published as a companion to the picture book I Lost My Talk, featuring the famous poem by Rita Joe, both volumes explore the legacy of Canada’s residential schools. They feature vibrant illustrations by Pauline Young that bring the words alive with emotional nuance. This remarkable pair of books possesses the rare ability of being suited to readers of all ages: three to six-year-olds, the traditional intended audience of picture books, will be captivated by the bright, lively illustrations; elementary and middle school children will find their Social Studies curriculum enriched by experiencing these important concepts rendered creatively; teens and adults will gain insight and empathy by enjoying these beautiful poems.
The text of I’m Finding My Talk is comprised of Rebecca Thomas’s new poem of the same name; it is a second generation response to the impacts of residential schools on Indigenous families and a direct acknowledgment of Rita Joe’s classic poem, “I Lost My Talk”. Thomas’ poem offers one view of the residential school system’s reverberating, ongoing effects—and the powerful Indigenous response to this cultural affront. The bio featured prominently on the last page of the book states that Thomas “grew up off reserve and outside of her culture” and that when she “grew up, she had to figure out what it meant to be Mi’kmaq without knowing any of the words for her world. But she started to learn.” I’m Finding My Talk explores this process vividly, using rich yet simple language evocative enough to resonate with readers of all ages. For example, she explains that “I’m finding my talk/With every bead./My regalia speaks/Through each stitch and seam.”
Pauline Young’s illustrations link I’m Finding My Talk with I Lost My Talk by using the same artistic style for both. Young utilizes undulating line, contrasts between bright and drab coloration, and Indigenous visual symbols. This combination conveys both the resilience of Indigenous culture and the trauma Indigenous peoples are still experiencing as a result of the residential school system. In I’m Finding My Talk, the speaker is pictured looking thoughtful in some images and happy in others, highlighting the optimistic tone of Thomas’s text.
I’m Finding My Talk is best read paired with I Lost My Talk. These haunting, evocative books bring an original approach to the exploration of Canadian residential schools in picture books. Educators, librarians, and families will find their classrooms and book collections invaluably enriched by both books. They are real tools of truth and reconciliation, and, as such, they belong on every bookshelf in Canada and beyond.
Michelle Superle is an Associate Professor at the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, where she teaches children’s literature and creative writing courses. She has served twice as a judge for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award and is the author of Black Dog, Dream Dog ( umanitoba.ca/outreach/cm/vol17/no21/blackdogdreamdog.html ) and Contemporary, English-language Indian Children’s Literature (Routledge, 2011).